Action Economy

Hands down my favorite change in Pathfinder 2nd Edition is the three action economy in combat encounters.  The brilliant design is this seemingly minor change allows the players to do more while also simplifying the game at the same time.  You may think to yourself that those two things are at odds, right?  How can something add more options and not enhance the complexity?  Allow me to explain! Everything you can do on your turn is simply called an “Action”.  There is no more move action, attack action, or bonus action; you just perform three actions.  So, already you see the removal of unnecessary rules that may bog down newer players, and allows a DM to simply tell a person “you can do three things”.  Now, for you Pathfinder fans that have already memorized the 600+ page tome that is the new 2nd edition rule-book, you may say it isn’t as simple as I made it sound, but for new players.. you are 90% there.  So easy to learn, but there is also depth to master.  Since you can perform three actions on your turn, you have more options due to the game system being more versatile. Lets take a look at an example:

My Rogue. Art by @Faebelina on Insta/Twitter

My Rogue may have picked a fight with a highly armored guard and he needs to get through a rather high Armor Class (AC).  So I choose to move into melee (first action). Then, because I am trained in Deception, I use the feint ability to try and catch my foe flat footed (second action).  Since I passed my deception check, the target now has a -2 to AC from being caught flat footed.  Finally, I go in for an attack with my short-sword! (third action).  … if we fail to hit, we run on our next turn!


Already, I can hear the wheels turning in your head of different combinations and tactics for you or your party to employ.  Additionally, I would be remiss if I did not talk about how this system synergies with spells!  Magic has always been incredibly powerful in tabletop RPGs and that is mainly because it’s just freaking cool.  In this new system, some spells can take 1, 2, or maybe 3 actions to cast depending on the strength of the spell, but more importantly, there are spells that allow you to make a choice.  Some spells allow you to cast a quick version of that spell with one action, or a more powerful version using 2-3 actions.  However, do not think of this only numerically, but rather, these different versions may have different affects or ranges.  Let’s go back to my Rogue example:

My Rogue picked a fight with a highly armored guard and got walloped.  Our Paladin has a heal spell and can choose how to cast it.  Heal can be a touch action for 1d8 (1 action), a ranged touch for 1d8 (2 actions) or a circle of healing that affects all targets in the circle for 1d8 (3 actions).  You can see that the Paladin has a choice to make based on the situation.  In this case, the Rogue deserved said wallop, and the Paladin continues her conversation about doing good.. or whatever. 


Pencil Art by Wayne Reynolds for the Pathfinder Play Test

The reason I find this new three action system to be my favorite change in Pathfinder 2nd Edition, is because it encourages creativity and choice in encounters while still making the game easy to learn or teach.  A new edition is always a welcome time for players to be introduced to a new system or the hobby as a whole, and I feel these 5 changes we outlined on the site will make Pathfinder 2nd Edition an enjoyable experience for all.

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